FREDERICK, MD—Kate Ansari currently boasts over 440,000 followers on TikTok. And no, she’s not posting makeup tutorials or email hacks. Ansari is the founder of Fêtewell, a Maryland-based event company that converts historic buildings into celebratory spaces.
Her account (@thevenueceo) documents her most recent project: renovating a century-old historic bank located in downtown Frederick.
“I began my TikTok in December of 2021 because I remember not having a central resource for starting a venue when I began my venue ownership journey. So I wanted to create an educational TikTok account for venue ownership,” she explains.
“Then the first few videos I posted about the process took off and I knew that’s what people wanted to see. My content is targeted at female entrepreneurs, so the intention wasn’t to get bookings for the venue—but it’s gone so viral that it definitely has created a lot of awareness of the space and boosted bookings.”
With over 9 million views, Ansari’s video revealing the building’s original marble tile floor, which had been covered with gobs of carpet glue, quickly did laps around the internet, with the likes of Newsweek and Buzzfeed News reporting on the reno work.
Ansari began the renovations in the summer of 2021, with the intent of preserving much of the site's original architecture, including two bank vaults that stand behind the teller counter. In order to open up the first floor for seating, the counter needed to go, though, and was commandeered by a local brewery to be used as a bartop.
Despite the battle with the carpet glue, Ansari says that it’s “been a pretty seamless renovation so far. The building has such good bones and is a joy to work on.”
The ornate, columned building is a former Citizens National Bank that was built in 1908 and still features original details like marble walls, bronze windows and the bank vaults. As a tribute to its roots, Ansari named the 6,100-square-foot renovated venue Citizens Ballroom, which is currently available for bookings from May through 2023. Her company also operates Main Street Ballroom in Ellicott City and Haven Street Ballroom in Baltimore.
“This is my third historic adaptive reuse project, where I turn abandoned historic spaces into wedding and special event venues. I love giving historic spaces new life as celebration spaces, especially if that wasn’t their original use,” she says. “There’s something about having a historic space be the beginning of a new family’s history. The bank is so grand and elegant on its own and I look for spaces that have good bones and speak for themselves. I’m just there to give it a modern safety and amenity update and let people enjoy the beauty of the past.”
Ansari, who started out as a broadcast journalist, was diagnosed with cancer when she was pregnant with her son, which led to a career change. “That was the turning point that inspired me to become my own boss so that I could spend as much time as possible with my kids,” she says. While getting her MBA at Carnegie Mellon, she says, “I was brainstorming ways to work for myself, provide for my family and be around people on the happiest day of their lives instead of their worst—which is what I did as a journalist. So I came up with the wedding industry as the perfect way to blend my passion for entrepreneurship and joy.”
Of course, business school doesn’t necessarily teach you how to go viral. So what lessons does Ansari have for other event pros? “Get on TikTok! And, literally, just be yourself. Unpolished, unfiltered. I shoot all of my voiceovers in one take. TikTok celebrates the authentic and is the complete opposite of a curated Instagram feed.”